Today President Obama reversed 60 years of U.S. nuclear policy and pledged we would not retaliate with nuclear weapons were we -- or our treaty allies --- attacked with conventional, biological or chemical weapons by nations in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He hopes that other nuclear weapons states will follow suit with a similar pledge and we will be well on our way to a world without nuclear weapons.
That's a lot of change resting on nothing more than awful lot of hope.
During the Cold War we kept the peace between the U.S. and the Soviet Union through a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). As President Reagan said, we insure that "any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies...concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression."
This worked whether the adversary was the Soviet Union, or a lesser state. If a country picked a fight with us, we kept open the possibility of unleashing a response that would crush them. We thereby deterred them from launching an attack against us in the first place. This policy of deterrence may have made for an uneasy peace -- but it managed to keep that peace for 60 years -- perhaps the longest period of great power peace since the fall of the Roman Empire.
But President Obama wants us to believe he knows better. He wants to wash his hands of this old, tired policy of nuclear deterrence as the first step in his plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons. That may be fine as far as it goes (although I have my doubts), but it fails to address the nuclear threat the United States and our allies are most likely to face in the months and years ahead -- nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue states or state sponsored terrorist groups.
Regardless of all the press briefings and talking points about reducing U.S. and Russian stockpiles, or reducing the number of targets in the U.S., or modernizing the nuclear arsenal, the real issue with Obama's new nuclear policy is it fails to check the rise of rogue nuclear states like Iran and North Korea, or to deal with sub-national terrorist groups -- like Al Qaeda -- who he admits are seeking nuclear weapons.
How can Iran take President Obama seriously about the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear attack when he doesn't even have the backbone to impose unilateral crippling gasoline sanctions, which even his Democratically-controlled Congress is pushing for? When President Obama prefers yet another round of watered down U.N. sanctions, in the hope that this time they'll come around around to the negotiating table.
Without crippling sanctions President Obama has no leverage over Iran. And negotiating without leverage isn't negotiating, it's begging. Does President Obama really believe that his goodwill gestures will convince Iran to change course, especially now that it is so close to possessing a nuclear arsenal?
Or has President Obama already thrown in the towel, and concluded that a nuclear Iran is inevitable and the best way to deal with them is through containment and deterrence......and the reassurance whispered behind closed doors that, 'they wouldn't dare...' It's okay, if those weapons aren't aimed at you. But if they are, it's not the odds that worries you, it's the stakes.
President Reagan said, "a nuclear war which can never be won must never be fought." (I know because I drafted those words). But Reagan never took the nuclear option off the table. And he said those words while he was building up America's defenses, modernizing our nuclear arsenal, and launching the Star Wars system to defend against nuclear weapons. Reagan understood that without leverage, these are just empty words.
President Obama has said similar things while taking the nuclear option off the table and cutting back on missile defense. He's given up whatever leverage we had in the form of goodwill gestures.
We've seen the folly of unilateral concessions before. Jimmy Carter believed that if we showed unilateral restraint by canceling the B-1 bomber, the Soviet Union would follow suit and cancel their Backfire bomber. They not only built the Backfire but several others.
Reagan believed in peace through strength. His policies allowed us to win the Cold War without firing a shot.
President Obama believes in peace through unilateral concessions. Not only is it unlikely to work, it might even contribute to ending the peace.
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's DefCon 3. She is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s November 1984 "Principles of War Speech" which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." and Mike Baker every Monday at 10 a.m. on FoxNews.com's "DefCon3" already one of the Web's most watched national security programs.